Toxic air contributes to health conditions such as asthma, cancer and stroke, say experts
Five people die each week in Bristol as a result of high levels of air pollution, a study has revealed.
Researchers at King’s College London examined the combined impact of PM2.5, which is mainly from domestic wood and coal burning and industrial combustion and nitrogen dioxide, which mainly comes from older polluting vehicles.
The fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide that pollute Bristol’s air cause about 260 people to die each year, the scientists calculated. These pollutants could cause up to 36,000 deaths across the UK each year, and also contribute to several health conditions including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
This is the first time that new government guidance on “mortality burdens” of air pollution developed by a government advisory committee have been applied to the largest city in the south-west.
Bristol had higher levels of PM2.5 pollution than Liverpool and Greater Manchester, the study found, but a lower death rate – partly because it is less densely populated.
The research revealed that a child born in 2011 could die up to six months early if exposed over their lifetime to air pollution in the city.
The study was published as the Bristol mayor hosts an air pollution summit on Monday.
This month the city announced radical plans to address air pollution, including a proposal to ban diesel cars from central areas between 7am and 3pm from 2021. The plans are subject to government approval and consultation with residents and businesses.
The study found the annual cost of the health impact of air pollution in Bristol was up to £170m a year.
Public Health England assessed in a 2018 report that the total national cost to the NHS and social care budgets of air pollution could be up to £5.56bn for PM2.5 and NO2 combined.
Marvin Rees, the Bristol mayor, said: “We have a moral, ecological and legal duty to clean up the air we breathe. This research emphasises how vital it is that we act quickly to improve health and save lives in Bristol.”
David Dajnak, the principal air-quality scientist in the environmental research group at King’s College London, said: “This report shows that more needs to be done to address the level of threat air pollution poses to health in Bristol.
“It highlights that the highest level of air pollution in Bristol coincides with zones of exceptional population growth and areas having the highest black and minority ethnic population.”
Bristol is one of several areas in the UK with illegal levels of air pollution. The most recent government data submitted to the EU revealed that 83% of reporting zones in the UK had illegal levels.
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